31 March 2011

Fuel for thought

Test Track offers a nice glimpse into the kinetic world of vehicle testing. There is, however, so much more to the history and romance of traveling down the open road. This too is touch upon at Test Track, if only briefly and, even then, only for the curious.

Scattered about the Test Track courtyard area, where most guest attempt to decide between Stand By or Single Rider queues and gather their Fastpasses for their proving grounds tour later in the day, there are a collection of panels. Each of the eight displays is double-sided, featuring a promotional reminder about Inside Track, the showroom/gift shop, on one side and an informational panel on the other. These educational, and sometimes entertaining, sheets cover topics ranging from the history and future of automobiles, to the design processes and even songs about heading on down the road.

While these displays are not the flashiest element of Test Track (Did you miss the car zooming around the banked turn overhead? I didn’t think so.), they are some of the most enlightening peeks the pavilion has to offer into the world of transportation.

30 March 2011

Cool through and through

As an educator who seeks to develop the whole child, from social emotional skills to physical and mental growth, one aspect I have been keenly aware of is the health and dietary habits of the children in my care. Balanced meals and proper nutrition are crucial, not only for children, but for teenagers and adults as well. That said, I am flying in the face of all my nutritional beliefs today when I offer up to you a single suggestion… When in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, be sure to spend part of your morning at Starring Rolls Café!

Starring Rolls Café is situated at the corner of Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards, tucked just beside and behind the Brown Derby. Inside there is a fine selection of pastries and even a couple of sandwiches or sushi rolls if happen by later in the day, but the real joy here is indulging early in the day. The small bakery is able to provide a wide array of coffee beverages to help peel those eyelids open, should Rock ‘N’ RollerCoaster not be a strong enough stimulant for you. The coffee is nice, and the pastries or sandwiches are fine, but the real reason to halt your touring midmorning is the massive sweets tucked inside of the cooler case.

Cupcakes, brownies, and other sinfully sweet creations filled the chilled bakery case of Starring Rolls. Many of these items, including the Red Velvet Cheesecake Cupcake, have been reviewed previously on the Main Street Gazette, but I don’t feel as if I am going out on a limb when I say I could easily, and happily recommend any single treat from Starring Rolls Café. Almost all of the items available from the display case are large enough to share with another guest or two, and are rich enough that sharing is perhaps the preferred manner of consumption.

Starches and sugars for breakfast certainly do not constitute the breakfast of champions, but I am going to let you in on a little secret. Chances are, if you happen to find yourself at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you are on vacation! Go ahead and let go for one morning. A typical break for me comes after I have played a round at Toy Story Midway Mania, when I pull in for a pit stop before continuing on the The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Rock ‘N’ RollerCoaster. However, I leave the timing of your breakfast break in your hands. My only word of caution is that morning lines at Starring Rolls Café can get long quickly with other sweet craving guests, so the early you arrive the better.

Sure, there are plenty of breakfast sandwich, Mickey waffle, bacon, potato and egg eateries and table service restaurants serving hearty dishes throughout Walt Disney World and most mornings these would be my recommendation. Every once in a while, just as a treat, I highly recommend talking to the kid hiding inside and having a cupcake for breakfast!

29 March 2011

The latest in electronic robots

A family visiting Walt Disney World has always been able to get sidetracked from their attraction mission by one thing, characters. The ability to generate an interaction between a child and Mickey, Cinderella, Dreamfinder, Captain Hook and other beloved characters come to life are often times the photographs and memories most cherished from a trip. I myself clung to my autograph book as a child, back when a wider variety of characters roamed the park with more freedom than they are allowed today.

A challenge to these interactions has always been the ability for the characters to interact with the guests. Aside from the face characters, a category populated by a selection of villains and princesses, other characters have almost always had to rely upon gestures to get their points across. In recent years we have seen leaps in the interactive arena stemming from projects like Turtle Talk with Crush, Muppet Mobile Labs and Lucky the Dinosaur, to name a few. In just the past year, we have seen Mickey begin to blink his eyes, move is mouth, and generate conversational speech in a few rare settings and even C-3PO has been getting in on the verbal act.

Yet, time and again, the interactive character that seems to get the most discussion is PUSH, or perhaps his Disney’s Animal Kingdom counterpart PIPA, the rolling, rumbling, talking and wise-cracking trashcan, or recycling can in the case of PIPA.

Be warned, from here on out we are going to discuss what makes the interactive element work for these characters. If you wish to keep in the dark about how these characters operate, it would be best to turn away now…

While PUSH and PIPA have grabbed some of the limelight, they were not the first in the line of characters with the ability to interface with guests. In the early days of EPCOT Center a little robot GYRO trundled his way around Future World. GYRO would begin talking with a single guest, usually a child, and a crowd of onlookers would usually follow. The conversations would include jokes, trivia questions, suggestions, songs, the pushing up of his hat with his antenna and even carry on a regular dialogue about the child’s experience in EPCOT Center. The 4’10” blue automaton was a favorite of guests, but how did GYRO, and for that matter PUSH and PIPA, operate.

The secret is in the character itself. Like all good puppets, GYRO, PUSH and PIPA can distract their audience away from the puppet master who is pulling the strings. In the case of case of our rolling friends, the strings happen to be a microphone and a remote control. While simple in design, the control the guides have over their robotic counterparts is remarkable. Add in a sense of humor and the experience is definitely one for the memory books and home videos.

As with the vast majority of early EPCOT Center experiences, GYRO has been retired for many years, but that doesn’t mean we can’t look back on the little ‘bot with a lot of lingering fondness.

28 March 2011


Looking around the four parks of Walt Disney World, there is a single park which no one could argue needs some plussing. Adding new life and fresh attractions to Disney’s Animal Kingdom is paramount to the continued success of the park. Regardless of fantastical ideas that have been left on the drawing boards, there are spaces both undeveloped and underutilized that could be used to expand the borders and believers of Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Which brings us to the roundtable topic of the day…

Roundtable Topic: What continent or ecosystem would you add to Disney's Animal Kingdom? What would this area bring to the park?
Roundtable Contributors: Fiona Doyle (DF’82), Melissa Loflin (Makin’ Memories), AJ Wolfe (The Disney Food Blog), Chris Fore (Yet Another Disney Blog), and myself.
Fiona – I had to think about this one for a long time, as it would be quite easy to reminisce about what would have been of the proposed Beastly Kingdom. But, to go out on a limb here, I would love to see the continent of Antarctica represented. I understand why it hasn't before (with the close proximity of Walt Disney World to other, aquatic based theme parks), but I think it would be a truly interesting area.

To learn about the ecosystem and the flora and fauna of the Antartic area would be fasincating. Plus, I do have a soft spot for penguins! So to see these beautiful creatures in Animal Kingdom would be a big bonus for me (I can be selfish - this is my fantasy!).

Additionally, there has been so many past explorations of Antartica, as well as present day research on the continent, that Disney's Animal Kingdom could really educate its guest with some of the history of the region. As well as providing insights to the type of research that is currently being undertaken in the region. A great way to provide edu-tainment to the guests of Walt Disney World.

Melissa – One piece of the planet the Animal Kingdom is missing is sea life. So much of Earth is made up of what exists under the water and should also be represented in the park. I think the addition of Australia would introduce this ecosystem to the park. Just as Asia and Africa boast treks and trails with the native animals, so could Australia. The “Outback” could take you past the various native marsupials that inhabit the continent, allow you to see the monotreme animals (mammals that lay eggs) such as the platypus and echidna up close, and let you walk through an amphibian and reptile enclosure before making your way to the main attraction of the area: "The Great Barrier Reef Exploration". This attraction could be like the Kilimanjaro Safari in Africa except it would take you under the water to see the creatures that call the Great Barrier Reef their home. At “Queenslanding” guests could board submarine vehicles called “Reef Marine Voyagers” (or RMVs) created to skim the surface of the water while still allowing guests the ability to see out all sides and see the animals around them. Of course, just as on the Safari, the animals would be kept away from the vehicles by unseen barriers. The creatures could include the various whales, dolphins, and sea turtles specific to the Reef, the coral that call the Reef home, and the numerous tropical fish that make up the Reef. To continue the park's theme of animal and ecosystem education, this would be a great time to incorporate more about conservation of the reef as well. I'm not sure if it could even be possible, but I would love to experience it!

AJ – I have two answers I can't decide between. My first response was that it would be nice to see an element of fantasy in the park. I like the original Dragon concepts for the park, and it might be an interesting foil to the Wizarding World in Universal. My other choice, however, which I think would be better received, would be the Australia concept that's been floating around. There's so much rich history in that area of the world, and the theming could be done very well.

Chris – What if a day at the Animal Kingdom could include an excursion to the lost city of Atlantis? This would give us a chance to experience both the fantastic and authentic denizens of Liquid Space. It might also give WDW a new home for a submarine and/or hydrolator experience.

Ryan – If I were going to add a continent or ecosystem to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, I would have to cheat by making the area an amalgamation of both the Galapágos Islands and Madagascar. Call it, Exotic Isles. The land would fit well with the lush vegetation present throughout the park, while taking advantage of the water elements inherent to the islands for attractions.

Oh, and I did I mention the vast array of animals, both from the land and seas, that could call the Exotic Isles home? With ‘Animal’ in the park’s name, there are an overwhelming number of creatures rarely seen outside of their native islands and archipelagos that could inspire awe in guests young and old.

The Gazette Roundtable has presented ideas for Disney’s Animal Kingdom from the cold chill of Antarctica to the sweltering heat of South America. The question is, what would you add to the park? Do you think one of the concepts above is a winner or do you have an even better idea of your own? Let us hear it!

27 March 2011

Disney This Week - 27 March 2011

Matt Hochberg lets Studios Central readers in on the disheartening news that there are changes coming to the Citizens of Hollywood. Be sure to read the original story and the follow-up.

Makin’ Memories authographer (that’s an author and photographer), Melissa Loflin, reminds her viewers to take in the cultural exhibitions held in Anandapur.

Kevin Kidney showcases some very fashionable ladies in 1961 Disneyland.

The Disney Food Blog turns Disneyland into Candy-Land when AJ Wolfe breaks down the new Disney Parks candies.

Greg Grimsley share a favorite Disney After Dark carving, as well as digging up a Flower & Garden history mystery on The Disney Obsession.

While off Disney property, the upcoming opening of LEGOLAND Florida has had me in a tizzy since I heard about it. Suzannah DiMarzio takes Zannaland readers along as she flies over the construction of the park.

Todd Perlmutter has a tough job, but someone’s got to do it! This week he weighed in on the best of Walt Disney World burgers for Touring Plans.

Simplicity counts, and that is precisely how Richard highlights the evolution of the Jungle Cruise attraction poster at DesignerLand.

In the more from yours truly department, as well as articles from a fine selection of other Disney authors, be sure to check out the latest issue of Celebrations! In the current issue, Issue Sixteen, I discuss the what-might-have-beens of World Showcase.

25 March 2011

To serve man

I’ve avoided discussing this little detail of the Hollywood Tower Hotel, known to some of you as The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, for a number of years now. Not because it is tasteless, but mostly because it seems so easy to draw a conclusion from. However, we will push forward and hopefully give you some new insight or tidbit you may not have gleamed from beyond the deepest, darkest corner of the imagination.This small volume appears in the library area of the Hollywood Tower Hotel. Not many among us could interpret the language of the Kanamit people. Thankfully, we have been spared the frustration of making sense from the book’s glyphs, as an index card translating the book’s title has been laid atop the cover. TO SERVE MAN

Beyond the text’s title, To Serve Man is also the title of The Twilight Zone episode in which it appeared during the third season of The Twilight Zone in 1962. The episode relates the tale of an alien race known as Kananits that have come to earth with the appearance of wanting to help humankind advance in all aspects of life, from power sources to horticulture. A group of cryptographers, previously tied up with Cold War deciphering, are tasked with translating the book left behind by one of the Kananits during an interview session. The benevolent intent of the Kananits is assumed when this title is decoded by the cryptographers, including the episode’s narrator Michael Chambers, portrayed by Lloyd Bochner.

As the people of Earth flourish, the Kananits begin offering trips aboard their spacecraft to their homeworld. The congenial atmosphere of The Twilight Zone episode comes to a crashing halt when the other shoe drops with only moments to spare. Another decoder named Patty, depicted by Susan Cummings, who works with Chambers pleads with him not to board one of the Kananit ships, while he is being herded aboard by the Kananits.

Her words to Michael are the words I will leave you with here, least you become too comfortable in the plush accommodations of the Hollywood Tower Hotel, “It’s a cookbook!”

24 March 2011

I've got to see that

Window shopping is easy at Walt Disney World, not only because there is a gift shop on every corner, but also for due to the sheer quantity of merchandise available. Today’s safari however, has nothing to actually do with shopping and everything to do with retail displays, more specifically window displays.

The shops of the Downtown Disney Marketplace are spacious, but don’t have opportunities for guests to really see what is happening inside without actually stepping into the store. That doesn’t mean they don’t know what they’re walking into. Thanks to cleverly designed and applied window boxes, signage and shop names, guests have a good idea whether or not the souvenirs they are looking for can be found within.

Today, we’re peeking in the windows of Tren-D and Mickey’s Pantry. Prepare for some stylish, stylized villainesses promoting fashion, while Mickey and friends endorse specific food lines and designs.

23 March 2011

That big chicken

There are those rare days in the Magic Kingdom when there is a chill in the air and the rains tumble down. On these cold, damp days there is something comforting about being able find something to warm that warms on the inside. There are always burgers, fries, chicken nuggets and hot dogs, but sometimes a hot soup is just what you need. Luckily, that is a little known specialty of Sleepy Hollow Refreshments in Liberty Square.

The small food stand, known mostly for its sweets and waffles, is based upon Washington Irving’s Hudson River home. Irving, the creator of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, gave the residence the name of Sunnyside in 1841. Back in Walt Disney World, the facsimile anchors one corner of the entrance to Liberty Square with an often photographed view of Cinderella Castle. While most guests walk away from the window with the waffles, funnel cakes or ice cream cookie sandwiches, the Chicken and Wild Rice Soup is a great dish to cut the sweet and warm from the inside out.

The soup is a creamy concoction filled with shredded nibbles of chicken, along with rice, carrots and a variety of other vegetables. It has a great, homemade flavor to it, but is not hearty enough to be considered a meal in and of itself. Although, if Walt Disney World wanted to start using sourdough bread bowls, I could definitely foresee this being a great meal option. As it stands, the Chicken and Wild Rice Soup will hit the spot on those nippy days when a sweater is called for.

A word of caution, however, the soup is served scalding hot. Make sure you have a few minutes to let it cool before beginning to scoop the soup.

If you are looking for an off the beaten path dish, something that cannot be found elsewhere in Walt Disney World, I highly recommend a trip to Sleepy Hollow Refreshments. If you aren’t in the mood for soup, then maybe a freshly baked waffle could tempt your palate.

22 March 2011

World Showcase magic

Yes, you are correct in your belief that this is ne of the creepiest images ever released by Walt Disney World. The blurb for this photograph speaks to the volume of guest interactions available in 1984 EPCOT Center:
MIME MAGIC – French mime share some of his World Showcase magic with a young Epcot Center visitor. Other entertaining personalities in the Walt Disney World showplace include the Japanese candyman, the Chinese Lion, Dreamfinder and Figment, and IB4E the Robot.

That is all well and good. EPCOT Center’s entertainment and guest interfaces were second to none for the better part of the park’s first two decades. However, that isn’t the exciting part of this photograph, the real treasure of this photograph hides in the background. Can you see it? Right beyond the Parisian skyline?

While it appears to be slightly fuzzy in the distance, the background of this press photo presents the Morocco pavilion during its construction phase. The pavilion was not an opening day attraction in EPCOT Center, instead opening in September of 1984. While it would not be the last of the pavilions to come to World Showcase, and here’s hoping we still haven’t seen the end of expansion, it would be constructed in conjunction with Moroccan artisans known as maalems. This crossover construction not only leant further authenticity to the Morocco pavilion, but it also assured King Hassan II the his country would be properly represented.

The tower swathed in scaffolding is a replica of the Koutoubia minaret found in the city of Marrakesh. The original minaret was built in the 12th century during the Almohades dynasty.

21 March 2011

Settler's cabin aflame

If you have been following the Main Street Gazette for any length of time, then you know that I have a longstanding interest in Frontierland and the area known as the Rivers of America. The majority of watercraft have disappeared from slow waters, but the Liberty Square Riverboat, also known as the Liberty Belle, still carries guests along the river. With all those eyes searching out scenes along the banks, perhaps it is time to freshen them up.

First, let’s talk about the watercraft that used to frequent the Rivers of America. While I would love to see them returned for guest use, I understand why they were permanently docked. Bringing them back now wouldn’t reinvigorate the area, but they are missed. Scattering a few more canoes, keelboats, rafts and other boats along docks and the shores of the river would add the invisible touch of life in motion to the river. Additionally, the numerous river markers, such as Howling Dog Bend and Raccoon Point, have slowly but surely disappeared from the waterways. These signs give a sense of space and adding the lost markers, or creating new buoys, back to the river would only add depth to each scene’s story.

There are several vignettes presented along the Liberty Belle’s route. From Wilson’s Cave In to the burial site, wildlife, native villages and Beacon Joe at Alligator Swamp, there are a lot of small details that could either use a fresh coat of paint or animated visual upgrades. The scenes themselves are still just as charming and appealing as they have ever been, but adding a little more motion and cutting back overgrowth would bring them back to the forefront of the riverboat attraction’s attention. The value associated with a pair of hedge trimmers, a couple of gallons of paints and a few gears would do more for the attraction than all the publicity an ad campaign could bring.

The most recognizable and dilapidated set piece of the Rivers of America is easily Settler’s Cabin. This singular scene serves to emphasize what has become of the canals. Once upon a time, Settler’s Cabin was continually engulfed in flames as the river pirates had made an example of the homestead. The hillside surrounding the cottage was well manicured, as if the settler had taken excellent care of their small plot. Today, the roof is rotting and weeds and wild growth have reclaimed the entire area, but the scene can still be seen by guests in Frontierland and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. To bring the Rivers of America back to prominence, the first and foremost item on the checklist must be the resurrection of Settler’s Cabin.

The Rivers of America should be a spot in the Magic Kingdom that brings time along the Mississippi to life. In its current state, it is a shell of its one mighty place in the park’s attraction catalog. For the most part, the waters and scenes on the shores could come back with some TLC. It may take a bit more time and expertise to revitalize some of the more prominent, but disregarded, moments of the Liberty Square Riverboat, but the Rivers of America is worth the investment.

20 March 2011

Disney This Week - 20 March 2011

With all the news coming out of Japan, I feel that no one has put the situation of Tokyo Disneyland into better perspective than Shawn Slater on DisneyShawn.

Jessica Clawson has launched a new project this week, Walt’s Writers. In one of her first post, she digs through the layers of The Imagineering Field Guide to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Speaking of launches, AJ Wolfe and The Disney Food Blog have finally released The DFB Guide to Walt Disney World e-Book. Expect a review here shortly, but until then check out this great guidebook for yourself!

Often times, we spend time wondering what to do when the weather is awful in Walt Disney World. This week, however, Matt Hochberg reminded Studios Central readers of activities to partake in when the weather is gorgeous.

George Taylor has been taking it easy this week, bobbing a long in a Bob-A-Long for Imaginerding. Some people just live the life, don’t they?

Favorite attractions are very personal things, as Melissa Loflin shows us when she discusses The Great Movie Ride on Makin' Memories.

It is hard the balance the needs of a theme park with the natural growth of an area, but Kevin Kidney shows us how it has been done in Farmland vs Fantasyland.

Fiona Doyle has a great dissection of a Discoveryland mural in Disneyland Paris on DF’82.

Yet Another Disney Blog scribe, Chris Fore, ponders what Tomorrowland would be like if it held to the principles Walt Disney set out for it.

Amanda Tinney presents a whirlwind tour of a concierge room at the Polynesian at Disney Every Day.

18 March 2011

It takes people

Monday, we talked about the individual stories of success in and around Disney presented throughout the plaques and the windows of Main Street U.S.A. This is one sight, however, that speaks to the volume of individuals whose combined efforts make each and every day a magical, successful event. The venue I am speaking of is the Magic Kingdom Casting Agency door that also resides on Main Street U.S.A.

(As a quite aside, the outpouring of support I received from Monday’s article truly took me aback, and I want you to know I treasure each and every one of you!)The door was installed in 2005, along the exterior to Disney Clothiers. The Magic Kingdom Casting Agency door simultaneously pays homage to all that Walt Disney could imagine, by listing him as the Founder and Director Emeritus, but also to the amazing army of Cast Members that stand on the frontlines of magic every single day by quoting Walt Disney. The quote from W.E.D.? “It takes People to Make the Dream a Reality.

Unlike the lofty windows of Main Street U.S.A., remember to always look up, this door is on the street level and accessible to everyone. Add in a pair of decorative Mickeys and the opening date for the office, as well as the Magic Kingdom, listed as Open Since ’71, and you have the makings of a wonderfully charismatic scene. A place that encourages guests to recall the Cast Members that make each day memorable.

17 March 2011

Who passed this way?

The Kids’ Discovery Club have outposts in every area of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and each station utilizes a critical element in the field of animal study. Masquerading as games, the basic components of a field study skill are passed on to young biologists, veterinarians and researchers. Africa’s post can be found along the final stretch of pathway used by the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail and offers a, well, distinctive way to identify animals.

For those of you who are squeamish, or really disliked the Dino Droppings scene of Jurassic Park, I advise you to look away now.

The game found at the Kids’ Discovery Club offshoot in Africa requires smaller guests to identify an animal based upon its hoof print and dung pattern. That’s right, children have to decide whether a gorilla, giraffe, rhinoceros, or lion passed through a section of Pangani Forest based upon its poop. I’ve watched this activity time and again, and each time the adults in the party grimace and the children giggle as they get up close and personal with the fake fecal matter.

So, let’s see how many of you have the right stuff to identify animals in the wild! What animal passed through the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail?

16 March 2011

Traditional Mexican dinner

Since Mexico’s newest waterfront restaurant opened last September, there has been quite the discussion about its highlights and its shortcomings. While La Hacienda de San Angel has been monopolizing the a lot of foodies’ time, as it should as a new establishment, but what about the Hacienda’s older sibling, San Angel Inn? Recently, I explored the original waterfront eatery of Mexico, tucked deep within the pavilion’s pyramid.There is a lot of good to say about San Angel Inn, but let’s start with the mediocre. Our server, Sergio, took quite a long time to make his way to our table. After a very pleasant first exchange, however, he seemed to disappear for almost the entirety of the meal, much to the chagrin of our empty drink glasses. As for San Angel Inn itself, I can understand wanting to gather in as many guests as possible to this unique setting, but when I have to sit with my midsection pressed against the table and still get jostled by another guest in the same precarious position behind me, perhaps it is time to thin out the tables.Now, on to the good. In addition to the complimentary chips and salsa, we also began with an order of guacamole. The thick, chunky dip had enough heat to send my dining partners to their margaritas, but enough fresh flavor to be one of the hits of the meal. For the main portion of our dinner, we decided upon the three course Traditional Mexican Dinner. Both the dessert, a traditional vanilla custard known as flan, and the main course, a skirt steak served with three sides (spring onions over nopales, black beans, and cheese dusted corn kernel), were dishes we would sample again.

So, what would certainly bring me back to San Angel Inn? The answer is threefold. For starters, in what seems to be a rarity around Walt Disney World these days, my steak was prepared precisely as I had asked the first time. Second, while the bowl of Sopa Azteca, a tortilla soup with avocado, cheese and pasilla pepper, was only so-so, the presentation of the appetizer was amazing. A bowl with the various components of the Sopa Azteca is placed before the guest without broth, allowing time to take in the unique textures and vivid colors that could otherwise be in the dish. The broth is then pour over the ingredients and guests watch as the tortilla strips soften, cheese melts and the individual elements begin to mingle. It is truly a sight to behold. Lastly, the environment in which the meal is presented is second to none; dining takes place in the dim lighting of a marketplace enveloped late twilight, across a stream from a formidable pyramid and semi-active volcano.Aside from a few minor inconveniences, San Angel Inn has quite a lot to offer guests who venture off the promenade looking for a meal. Decent fare, a handful of uncommon ingredients, unique presentations, and did I mention the waterfront pyramid? Sleepy children may find dining at San Angel Inn to be a tedious chore, or fall asleep in the middle of their meal, but for the remainder of guests seeking warm sustenance, San Angel should hit the spot.

15 March 2011

Mighty tough territory

There are four scenes within The Great Movie Ride that allow for guest, or should I say Cast Member, interaction. We touched upon the Underworld sequence on Friday, where a gangster hijacks the vehicle for their getaway. The others include the scene where the villain gets there comeuppance at the statue of Anubis and the back-and-forth banter with the Wicked Witch of the West. The final scene of interactivity is one of those rare glimpses not seen very often these days.

Once upon a time, The Great Movie Ride ran each movie tour with two sets of vehicles, which meant there were two vehicles had to be commandeered by scum and villainy. The scene most guests are familiar with today, the Underworld, was achieved with the second vehicle being ‘stopped’ by the red light. The exchange between The Great Movie Ride tour guide and the gangster known as Mugsy allowed for the first vehicle to sweep into the Old West and find its own predicament.

In the Old West takeover, the tour guide hears that someone is robbing the bank and springs into action. In the moments that follow, the tour guide rushes into the bank, the sheriff begins his shoot-out, and the bank robber blows up the bank before taking the tour vehicle hostage. Just like Mugsy, the bank robber will receive their retribution at the statue of Anubis, and the guests will continue on with the show.

The bank robbery scene is still run at The Great Movie ride, only with fewer performances; so few, in fact, that I felt it had every right to be discussed in a history article. To be clear, in all the trips I have taken to Walt Disney World and Disney’s Hollywood Studios since the Gazette began I have not once seen the Old West scene, and only once have I been on the ride when there were two sets of vehicles running for the bank robbery to even take place. Sadly, the sight seen below is not as common as it once was, but I guess every great western ends with a ride off into the sunset.

14 March 2011

It makes you valuable

The word ‘Disney’ conjures a variety of images, from theme parks and attractions to feature films and television shows, and there are so many wonderful stories about each and every portion that makes up the ideal of Disney. Behind the gleam of the finished products, however, is a vast horde of dreamers and doers who made the incredible look easy. For those that worked tirelessly crafting Walt Disney World, the trick to finding the stories of their successful dreams, one simply has to take a glimpse at any window on Main Street U.S.A.To really obtain a dream takes more than wishful thinking, it takes determination, focus, time and copious amounts of hard work. What you are reading today is the hard work portion of my own dream. Dreams have a funny way of shifting on a person, at one point in my life I dared to believe that finding the perfect partner in life would be my dream come true. To be clear, it was, but after marrying Aileen I found that other dreams sprung up from within me. My current dream is to one day write for The Disney Company. Whether in the form of press releases, attraction story development or books on the history of the parks, I’m not too particular, just that I am able to use the talent I have for words to deepen the knowledge base of Walt Disney World.

I also know I could be happy never working for Disney directly, but crafting books and articles from outside boundaries of the Vacation Kingdom. The model for this has been set out by my good friend, Lou Mongello, and is a path I hope to one day emulate with some reasonable level of success.

It is wonderful to have dreams, to dare to reach beyond what is safe and available, but that doesn’t mean that it will, or should, all be a perfect path to the Emerald City. In fact, it is my belief that the bumps along the way are what define the dreams and make them that much more exciting when they are reached. Walt Disney called this ‘a swift kick in the teeth,’ and offered that it was a good experience for the young, and I couldn’t agree more.

I didn’t discuss this with many at the time, only a select few whose input and encouragement I needed, but last fall I applied for the vacant Social Media Manager position at Walt Disney World. I felt my combination of writing prowess, awareness off current Walt Disney World policies and practices and overarching familiarity of the current social media pool made me an ideal candidate. As it would turn out thousands of other applicants with varying degrees of experiences and expertise, some similar and some radically different from my own, felt the same way I did. At this point, it should be obvious that I did not get the position. In fact, I didn’t even make the cut for interviews earlier this year.

Couple this disheartening turn of events with some other extremely trying circumstances I’ve been dealing with recently, and it is enough to make anyone start to question their dreams. But I am not here to tell you I have decided to close up shop on the Main Street Gazette, quite the contrary. I am here to let each and every one of you know that I am going to redouble my heart and mind into making the Gazette a beacon for those seeking to add a splash of Walt Disney World to their day.

Earlier, we said that the windows of Main Street U.S.A. held within them wonderful stories of successful dreams, and most likely each and every person there could tell a tale about bumps in the road. Nevertheless, it is not a photograph of any of these windows that I have hanging on my wall as a reminder. It is a few words from Randy Pausch.

In brief, Randy Pausch gave a talk known as “The Last Lecture” on the campus of Carnegie Mellon University in September of 2007. The address was titled, Really Achieving Your Childhood Dream, and was delivered almost a year to the day that Pausch was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and only a month after he was told that he only had a few good months of health left. This one lecture led to a book, a meeting with Oprah, and even a small role in the recent Star Trek reboot film. Pausch passed away in July of 2008.

Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams does what I cannot do for you here, it takes you through the journey of going from dreamer to achiever and how life interrupts the best laid plans, and it does it with insight, wit, and more humor than one should have facing terminal cancer. What was the childhood dream of Randy Pausch? To create the world of Disney, to become an Imagineer. A feat he finally reached, taking a road he probably hadn’t even considered in his formative years. Randy Pausch’s story has moved many and inspires any who take the time to invest in listening to his speech or read the words he has written (which I recommend you do immediately if you have never taken the time).

A small winding plaque, mimicking the wild leaves of Alice in Wonderland, sits before the Mad Tea Party topiary in the Magic Kingdom. The words of Randy Pausch inscribed there are as follows, “Be good at something; it makes you valuable… have something to bring to the table, because that will make you more welcome.Those are the words I strain to live by these days, and have for the past several years. I have no doubts that I am good at something, although anyone with enough resolve could be just as good or better. Nor do I have any preconceived notions that the teeth kicking incidents are over. But that doesn’t mean I am ever going to stop pursuing my own dreams. It only means that, for now, the Main Street Gazette is what I bring to the table and I hope you enjoy it.

The real question is, what are your dreams and what do you bring to the table?

13 March 2011

Disney This Week - 13 March 2011

Andy Jackson tours the train facilities and finds some great cookies along the way at Eating (and Drinking) around the World.

Under the heading of “don’t show my wife this,” AJ Wolfe carves up Contempo Cafe’s Dulce de Leche Cupcake on The Disney Food Blog.

Pam Brandon and the Disney Parks Blog share the opening of a new breakfast buffet at The Wave, along with a sweet pancake recipe.

DF’82 scribe, Fiona Doyle, reminds us that the middle of nowhere has its own story to tell in Disneyland Paris.

Dewayne Bevil begins examining the transformation of Pleasure Island into Hyperion Wharf for The Daily Disney.

Beers and Ears contributor, Ed Lotoczky, samples a pair of Animal Kingdom Lodge brews, Casa Beer and Bedele.

Chris Wallace talks about the process of recreating the Easy Living scene as part of his Horizons: Resurrected project.

Mr. Fun, a.k.a. Floyd Norman, shares a letter from a longtime friend at Walt Disney Productions to a teenage Tim Burton.

Carly Morgan shares the internal thoughts on taking children to Walt Disney World pre and post baby on The Disney Baby Blog.

11 March 2011

Looks a lot like the underworld

As activate participants of The Great Movie Ride in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, guests are often inundated with memorable film scenes that make them remember the simple pleasure of taking in some cinema. Of course, as with every trip to the picture show, it only takes a few bad apples to ruin the feature. In the case of The Great Movie Ride, those thugs and villains first make their presence known along a stretch of road known as Gangster Alley, which happens to run right by Patrick J. Ryan’s Bar.Patrick J. Ryan’s Bar, set right across the entrance of Gangster Alley, is one of the first set pieces seen in the Underworld scene of The Great Movie Ride. It is an altogether fitting saloon hall to be present in the scene as the seedy side of film is always populated with bars and because Patrick J. Ryan and his alcoholic establishment are both featured in The Public Enemy, the same film James Cagney is acknowledge for with his Audio-Animatronics figure.

In the 1931 film, Patrick J. Ryan, most commonly referred to as Paddy Ryan, is a bootlegger played by Robert Emmett O’Connor who recruits Tom Powers (James Cagney) into the booze bootlegging business. Paddy Ryan’s bar is the base of operations for his crew, a site that meets its untimely end by being bombed by a rival gang mere minutes before the film’s protagonist is met with his own death scene.

Luckily, those visiting The Great Movie Ride get a chance to see Patrick J. Ryan’s Bar, pre-bomb renovations. A fitting way to start their adventures in the Underworld.

10 March 2011

Painting into several planes

When we think of great works of art, we are inexplicably drawn to the museums and galleries that house them today. As a culture, however, artists themselves are not in their element in a museum, but on location where they find inspiration and subject matters, otherwise known as the real world. The creation of works of art and the process of surviving off of that art has often been a life lived in and around the streets where regular people exist, play, laugh, mourn, love, eat, cry and work. This is particularly true of art and artists in France.

The process of crafting a piece of art, as well as selling the work, is highlighted throughout the France pavilion in a series of environmental vignettes. Be sure to stop and smell the oils.

09 March 2011

A hen that stood at six foot four

Carnivores are tricky beasts to tempt, luckily the turkey legs of Walt Disney World provide a roadmap to the carnivore’s constitution. A catalog of required meat eats, if you will.

To be honest at the onset here, it had been years since I even nibbled at a one of the turkey legs found in a multitude of carts and kiosks around Walt Disney World. However, I felt that this classic Disney food, featured in everything from shirts to a child’s toy food set, was well overdue for a taste test on the Main Street Gazette. I must say, I was surprised by what I found.

Every time I see a guest wandering around with one of the world famous turkey legs, my first thought is always the same, “that must have been a giant bird,” and I am talking the Godzilla of Thanksgiving poultry. When they first handed me my turkey leg, it seemed even bigger than any I had seen in passing, and its size was evenly matched by its substantial weight. When securing your own gobbler limb, make sure to grab napkins, lots of napkins, as the juices will run everywhere.

Getting to the actual meat of the matter, there is definitely enough here to share with a friend if the turkey leg is not going to be the sole provider of your mealtime. The drumstick meat is tender, flavorful, and filled with the natural juices retained during the smoking process. The real prize of this savory, on-the-bone treat comes in the form of the skin. Take note that the skin has tightened and split along the mass of the turkey meat. This skin is the flawless combination of chewy and crispy, crunchy, while carrying a smoky flavor that lingers well after the skin has melted in the mouth.

With 1.8 million pounds of turkey legs sold every year at Walt Disney World, this is not a drumstick that is going to be in short supply anytime soon. With just a single turkey leg under my belt in the last handful of years, it is clear to see why these “big honkin’ pieces of meat,” (as my wife labels them) are classic theme park fare.